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A Quick Look at Greywater Recycling Solutions

by Holly Sanders
(Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Greywater recycling is one way to conserve fresh water use and do your part to preserving the environment!.

Greywater is the name given to water that runs off from your shower, kitchen, and laundry system. It is not the same as what is referred to as blackwater which is from a standard toilet.

The idea is simple: Re-use water that runs off from typical washing activities in the household. This type of recycling can either be simple or complex and not every city code allows it but it can be a viable conservation solution.

The Characteristics

Greywater typically comes from sinks, dishwashers, showers, and tubs.The level of bacteria in greywater is not as high as with blackwater from the toilet. Consequently, it is safer to handle than blackwater and if it is reused in an irrigation capacity it can cut household water expenses.

Although not considered greywater from household use, rain water can also be included in the overall solution of reusing waste or run-off water. Although greywater does not have the same level of bacteria as blackwater, it can quickly become that way if not reused within 24 hours. This is because the bacteria that exist in greywater will consume the oxygen making it septic.

The Uses of Greywater

The primary use of untreated water from greywater recycling is for irrigation of household gardens and plants. This is because when greywater is introduced into the topsoil, the bacteria living there will break it down and make nutrients available to surrounding plant life.

There are basically two types of systems you can have installed. The first is a diversion system which takes greywater produced from your bath and washing machine and directs it to your garden for subsurface irrigation. The other is a treated system that allows you to use the water for not only irrigation but also for toilet flushing, air conditioner cooling, and clothes washer use.

Barriers to the Greywater Recycling

The barriers to the use of greywater focus on the need to protect human health. This usually means protecting against the flow of it into drinking water storage. In essence, you need a separate plumbing system and this could prove to be rather expensive.

Another barrier to using gray water is the confusion among different zoning officials as to set standards of what is acceptable for use. Many local zoning authorities are reluctant to allow the recycling of greywater for fear of creating a public health hazard. Oftentimes, it is only a matter of educating these authorities as to the benefits that can be derived from recycling semi-contaminated water.

Greywater pipe systems can also be expensive to maintain. This is because the debris that is produced with greywater recycling has a tendency to build up on the inner walls of the pipes. The solution to this is proper filtration however this just adds to the overall cost.

Is a Greywater System Right for You?

Answering the question as to if a greywater system is right for you involves several considerations. The overriding consideration is if your local zoning authority will allow this type of recycling. It is important to get all of the facts first. You should also take into consideration how much greywater that you actually produce and how much you will benefit from installing a system.

You do not necessarily need to have a complex system installed in order to begin greywater recycling right away. For example, you can wash dishes in a basin rather than letting the water go down the drain into the city’s sewer system. When finished with the dishes take the basin and drain it into your garden.

In fact, just about any situation in your home where there is wasted water is a potential source of greywater for recycling. These are situations such as capturing rinse water when you brush your teeth, capturing water from the washing machine drain cycle, and even capturing drain water under your sink instead of letting it drain to the sewer.

If you decide to try this type of recycling, safety is of utmost importance. Great care must be taken so as to avoid contact with this water even though it is not as “dirty” as water from the toilet. However, if you do everything right, greywater recycling can not only save you on water usage but provide a way to water your garden even when the city places restrictions during dry seasons.

Updated: December 8, 2012 — 4:19 pm

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